Water crossings are among the most difficult and dangerous challenges to attempt while off-roading. Although some people make crossing a river or stream look easy, the truth is that you must always approach this type of obstacle with a serious understanding of the risk that you are taking. As you prepare for your first water crossing, use these tips to avoid getting stuck.
Know What You Are Getting Into
Impulsive decisions have no place in off-roading. While you may occasionally see someone on the trail just push through a water obstacle without checking it over, this is a sure way to end up needing to call for 4x4 recovery. Water on off-road trails is often murky, and you never know what lies beneath the surface. Take the time to get out and check out the water. As you do, take note of the depth at its deepest point along with the type of surface that lies on the bottom. If it's rocky or hard, then you should be able to pass through with care. However, muddy river bottoms are difficult to assess, and it may be better to just turn around.
Identify the Vehicle's Wading Depth
As an off-roading enthusiast, you should know every detail of your vehicle, and yours should have a wading depth that is provided by the manufacturer. Avoid going into water that is above this level unless you have after-market equipment installed such as a snorkel. If you don't know the wading depth, then a good rule of thumb is to skip any water obstacles that are higher than your bumper to avoid choking out the engine.
Like any other obstacle on the trail, you must be committed to working through the challenge once you begin. As you enter the water, switch to the lowest gear that allows you to maintain enough speed to travel through the water without causing damage. While you should be aiming for a slow pace in shallow water, you may need to go slightly faster in deeper obstacles to create a bow wave in front of the vehicle that lowers the water level. Whatever you do, don't stop. Doing so could cause the water to flood the engine, or the tires could get stuck and lead to a need for off-road recovery. Plus, you may need momentum to climb out of the riverbed.
Whether a recent storm has left a stream in the way of your favorite trail or you just want to try something new, water crossings are an exciting obstacle to traverse on your off-roading adventures. By maintaining a healthy level of respect for nature and knowing what your vehicle is capable of, you can successfully attempt your first water crossing and add to your off-roading repertoire.